A new international poll released by Phillip Morris International (PMI) reveals strong public support for alternatives to smoking. The results from respondents in the United States show the same: 85% believe adult smokers should have access to alternatives to cigarettes and information about these products.
The survey shows that two-thirds, 62%, believe the government should do all they can to encourage smokers to find a less harmful alternative to smoking combustible tobacco. This is an astounding number considering that the FDA has been working overtime to deny smokers the availability of helpful and proven devices to free them from tobacco harm.
The public is also aware that the government (FDA) has not done a good job ensuring everyone has access to the latest innovations and advancements that can improve public health: 58% say the government is doing a bad job of this. But the government is not just doing a bad job of informing smokers of options available to them should they want to quit smoking, they are actively working to remove access by threatening to ban online sales of e-cigarettes and ban e-juice flavors which are instrumental in helping people transition off combustible tobacco. Last month, FDA honcho Scott Gottlieb threatened popular e-cigarette companies like JUUL with crippling punishments if they don’t come up with some way to enforce the prohibition on underage e-cig use.
If this is the kind of treatment current products on the market are receiving, what about promising technology that has yet to get approval from the FDA?
Good question. The FDA is dragging its feet on the approval of the IQOS, which has enjoyed much success in other countries in helping move smokers away from toxic, combustible tobacco. The IQOS uses a heat-not-burn technology that allows a user to get his nicotine from tobacco without the poisons associated with combustion. Why hold up a product like this from the U.S. market when it has already had success in other countries? Sitting on technology like this is clearly at odds with the public, whom government agencies are supposed to serve. The people want options for smokers and the FDA is keeping those options away.
The FDA is out of step with public sentiment and it’s not just the United States government that is out of touch with public opinion.
Publication of the study results follows a meeting of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of Parties (COP) in Geneva last week, where the 181 member countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met to decide on global tobacco control policy recommendations. None of their discussions were open to the public or media. Although many individual states took progressive positions, the disappointing and unfortunate outcome of the COP will mean that millions of smokers will not know about better alternatives to cigarettes. This approach is in sharp contrast with public opinion: 92 percent of those surveyed agreed that smokers should have access to accurate information to guide their choices.
“The science is clear. The evidence shows that switching to a smoke-free product is a better choice than continuing to smoke. We simply cannot keep smokers in the dark about this information. The COP missed an opportunity to put people and science at the heart of its policymaking,” added Dr. Moira Gilchrist, Vice President of Scientific and Public Communications at Philip Morris International.
There is no reason that here in the United States a comprehensive arsenal of tools to quit combustible tobacco not be available to consumers looking to improve their health. These tools already exists. What use is the government if it is going to keep people addicted to cigarettes? How can it claim to work for the interest of our health?
The survey, conducted by IPSOS for Philip Morris International (PMI) between September 4 and September 19, 2018, included approximately 31,000 general population adults in 31 countries worldwide. The participants were asked about their views on public health issues, the role of technology and innovation in public health, and alternative products to cigarettes.